About Catalyst

Charles Gardiner founded Catalyst to spur change in how government, communities, and business work together to solve the big challenges of our day—water, natural resources, infrastructure, community planning, and climate.

At our foundation is a core belief in collaboration. Drawing on the diverse expertise of team members, partners, stakeholders, and community members, we develop solutions that protect and support the environment, equity, and economy.

Our work isn’t rocket science. It is much more complicated. We bring diverse people and organizations together to find common purpose. We provide expertise and strategies to align people, policies, and science for effective problem-solving.

Clients that engage with Catalyst can count on us to:

  • Listen deeply to consider, accommodate, and adapt so projects and programs meet their goals and serve the community.
  • Communicate effectively by understanding, simplifying, and translating complex concepts and perspectives among specialists, communities, and leaders.
  • Build trust through open, honest, and direct communication that allows space for all perspectives and builds on shared purpose and areas of agreement.

Including diverse, under-represented, and marginalized communities is embedded in the heart of our business. We engage, hear, include, trust, and value the communities and organizations we serve.

Our Team

We are a team comprised of Catalysts. We strengthen bonds among people and build partnerships. We generate support and enthusiasm for projects and programs. We cause things to happen and get things done. Meet our team:

Charles Gardiner, Principal Strategist
For more than 30 years, Charles has helped government agencies, communities, and businesses identify and implement solutions to complex public policy and infrastructure challenges.

His work in water and the environment began at an early age in a coastal suburb of Boston and on his family’s farm in Maine. Playing on the beach and in the tidepools, streams, and ponds, Charles became fascinated by the flow of water, as well the bugs, birds, frogs, and fish that inhabited these ecosystems.

With a deep sense of service, along with college degrees in chemistry and political science, he started his career in fundraising and organizing for environmental and consumer issues and managing stakeholder input on a harbor cleanup program in Boston.

A move to California landed Charles at the start-up of a county transportation authority and then a national engineering firm managing public participation in water, transportation, and site remediation programs.

After 16 years as principal of a small Bay Area communications firm, Charles took the leap to found Catalyst. With deep experience in strategic planning, facilitation, communications, and technical analysis, Charles and his team simplify complexity and bring people together to get programs approved and done.

Linadria Porter, Project Manager
Linadria Porter is a project management and communications professional with extensive experience strategizing and implementing high-profile initiatives for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, Hewlett Packard, Wells Fargo, and Levi Strauss and Company.

She specializes in guiding and supporting global and local organizations to fully align their business strategy, project initiatives, public and internal outreach campaigns, and community events to organizations’ core goals.

Aaron Pope, Project Manager
Aaron Pope has over a decade of experience working on sustainability focused engagement, collaboration, and planning initiatives.

He spent seven years as the Manager of Sustainability Programs at the California Academy of Sciences, where he managed the organization’s sustainability roadmap, helped it achieve LEED Platinum certification, built a large partnership network, developed content for climate-related exhibits and programs, and spearheaded environmental communications.

He has expertise in public speaking, telling stories, translating science, building consensus among public and private stakeholders, and building organizational capacity.

Lauren Leonard, Project Assistant
Lauren Leonard is a multidisciplinary environmental professional who has experience working in projects intersecting social and natural systems. She has primarily focused on socio-hydrologic issues relating to water management systems, water policy and governance, and water rights community mobilization efforts.

With ethnographic work experience, she has collaborated on research both domestically and internationally in Bolivia and Argentina.

With over six years of working with Spanish speaking communities, Lauren emphasizes building connections and cross-cultural understanding to strengthen collective action in addressing complex environmental problems.


Peter Bluhon, Facilitator
Peter Bluhon is an environmental planner who specializes in the facilitation of multi-party negotiations to craft public policy, physical plans, and funding strategies.

He has led over 50 collaborative negotiations in biological resource management, transportation infrastructure funding, public and institutional facility planning (community centers, hospitals, parks), and urban design and zoning policy.

He has advised federal, state, regional, and municipal agencies in the convening of science-intensive planning initiatives where resource managers and community stakeholders seek a consensus policy and implementation program.

He has a demonstrated commitment of helping parties with diverse interests solve seemingly intractable problems through collaborative problem assessment, fact-finding, and agreement “design.”

Deb Kollars, Writer and Editor
Deb Kollars blends her extensive experience as a journalist, attorney, and communications expert to assist clients with research, writing, communications and policy strategy, and statutory and regulatory analysis.

She worked for more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter in Sacramento, California, where she focused on public policy issues – including local and state government, environmental and water resources, urban development, and public education. During this time, she developed deep ties within California’s Capital region.

Ms. Kollars is also a licensed California attorney who has specialized in environmental and water law matters, with additional emphasis on municipal government operations: open meetings and public records; transactional matters including joint powers activities; legislative analysis; and regulatory processes.

A nimble and creative writer and strategist based in Sacramento, California, Ms. Kollars assists clients in managing and synthesizing complex information and producing thorough and timely written products and advisory services tailored to their needs.

Mary Currie, Media Specialist
Mary is a multifaceted communications professional with more than 30 years of experience specializing in strategic media relations, crisis communication, and stakeholder outreach and engagement.

She has expertise in media training and coaching, public speaking, writing, government relations, translating highly complex information into simple communications, and building public trust through communications.

cat•a•lyst [kat-l-ist], noun

  • A substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
  • Something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
  • A person or thing that precipitates an event or change.
  • A person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.